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2 Timothy 2:2

The Plan of Discipleship

2 Timothy 2:2

An outline on how to start and maintain a discipleship program

Paul J. Bucknell

The Bible Teaching Commentary

Bilingual video training on 2 Timothy 2:2
2 Timothy 3:16-17


2 Timothy 2:2 The Plan for Discipleship' provides an outline on how to start and maintain a discipleship program in the church.

A.) Content of the Gospel "And the things" (2 Timothy 2:2)
B.) Training of Others "which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses,"
C.) Teachability of our Hearts "these entrust to faithful men,"
D.) Reproduction of Disciples "who will be able to teach others also."

The Urgency of discipleship

The urgency of discipleship grows as we understand the heavy damage the church is suffering from the lack of God's truths into His people.

Those who have been a Christian for a while will have observed a strange phenomenon: dying churches. If the gospel is so grand, then why is it that God's people tend to fall away from the faith in just a generation or two?

Generational decline for the Lord

This same trend occurs even after revivals. A revival, by definition, is when scores of people come to know Christ in a deeper way. Radical changes take place in their lives. As the number of people changing and knowing the Lord grows during the movement, the more impact the revival has on the culture around them.

This first generation who comes to know the Lord deeply are followed by other generations whose hearts have become careless and insensitive to the Lord.

Judges 2:10-19 Cycle of Revival and DeclineThis falling away of God's people from God's grace has become so commonplace that it can be clearly traced back to the book of Judges (Judges 2:10-19; 3:10-17). God's people are revived once they cry out to God, but why do they fall away?

Are we any different?

How many of you are first generation Christians (first in family to know the Lord)? Second? Third or more generations? Has this tendency to drift from God infected you? Do you pray 20 minutes a day? Do you repent from your love for the things of the world?

Satan has a plan to get you. He, perhaps, already has some of you sucked up in his diabolical plan. His clever plan has destroyed Christian families, churches and nations. Don't get me wrong. Satan can't do this overnight. The first generation Christians are zealously praying. The evil one can't touch them. He has to be subtle and wait His time. The Path of Decline from Judges

We see the same pattern in New Testament churches. Doesn't the Book of Revelation point out how the light in different local churches was about to be snuffed out?

"But I (Jesus) have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place – unless you repent." (Revelation 2:4-5)

The same pattern occurs in Christian student groups. The only difference is that the generations develop more quickly! You onRemove your lampstand Revelation 2:4-5ly have four years to be born, grow and reproduce. The same dangers, however, exist. I wish I had more time to analyze this more thoroughly with you. They have special factors at work that are different from the above.

Satan's not so secret weapon

So what method does the Prince of Darkness use to contain this burst of light? Your answers of compromise, worldliness and distraction are correct. But we, like many others, will miss out if we do not see the underlying problem. By finding the foundational problem, the solution will be right at hand.

So what is the secret weapon that Satan uses to bring down the greatest fortresses the Spirit of God has built? I believe it is the lack of proper discipleship. After all, this is what Jesus told and equipped His disciples to do: "make disciples."

Zealous Christians have not rightly understood how to pass on their faith to the succeeding generations. The problem is that they assume those after them will have the same zeal and understanding that they have. The problem is that they don't.

That one assumption fouls up their willingness to teach and train. This happens in families too. Parents expect their children to know what they want, but parents need to provide step by step instruction to help them understand the process.

Of course, if Christians would just obey the Lord's command to 'make disciples,' then the problem would be avoided. The fact is not many people including pastors and teachers have thought through what it is to make disciples or why Jesus made this His last charge?

Because new Christians are baptized, but not specifically trained in what it is to be a godly Christian, many Christians stay worldly without knowing it. The fire of the first generation Christian has not been passed on. In the end, form, rather than passion, is passed on.

What is discipleship like?

True discipleship, however, always passes on a heart of doing what the Lord wants. They care about motivation as well as obedience. Let's look closely at today's passage in 2 Timothy 2:2 and try to better understand how to make disciples.

And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2)

Jesus commanded us to make disciples. Paul has compactly given us the plan of discipleship. It is not complicated but crucial. Remember that our success or failure depends on how well we follow this pattern. We are not devising a new method but only unfolding what has always been so clearly described in the scriptures. Through our study, try to keep asking, "Why does discipleship help protect a church from decay?"

We have four important parts of 2 Timothy 2:2 to properly understand it.

#1 Content of the Gospel (2:2)

"And the things"

'And the things' sounds like it violates every rule to writing good sentences. BFF New Testament Digital LibraryWhat is the Apostle Paul describing here with such a generic phrase? If anyone has read through 2 Timothy, they will be very clear what 'the things' are. Paul speaks about them early on in his letter to Timothy.

2 Timothy 1:10 says briefly that 'the things' are the gospel. In 2 Timothy 1:13, 14 he says more clearly,

"Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you."

Paul says it is "the standard of sound words." In the next verse, he goes on and tells Timothy to guard this treasure. These things were entrusted to Timothy. They are entrusted to anyone who has them passed on to them, much like a family heirloom. The phrase 'the things' summarizes all of Christian teaching and its benefits toward God's people.


Perhaps we need to pause here and ask what are those things that God has passed onto us? Do we know Him? Have we been as dutiful in learning His truth as in keeping up with the movies? Am I teachable? What have I learned? What more do I need to learn? What is He trying to teach me now?

This is a series of very loaded questions which each of us are fully accountable before God to answer. You can put off these answers, but God will finally meet up with you. We are the generation that can put God's Word on our palm pilots, in most languages, in every size Bible that you would want. Every commentary and help is at hand including a website Biblical Foundations for Freedom! But are 'the things' in you? Are you teachable?

Jesus summarized His teachings by an ultimate love for God and devoted love to those around us. Let's now look at the second phrase.

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#2 Training of Others (2:2)

"Which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses"

Paul is speaking about the need for Timothy to speak only what has been spoken to him. This training has several aspects.

• Need to be Communicated

The gospel needs to be passed on to others. The gospel must be communicated. We can use radio, television, personal conversation or even the web.

• Pre-defined; no Modernism

Paul instructs Timothy not to get caught up in recent changes of doctrines. Many false teachings were being passed around. Timothy was to stay true to what was passed to him.

One false doctrine that seems to attract some today is the concept that God is evolving. This concept is outright pagan. Behind this heresy and insult to God is that God gets better as man's concept of God gets better. This philosophy retreats back to the old ages where there was not much difference between God and man. God was only a reflection of man's thoughts. This is a false God.

• Mutual Accountability

Paul wasn't around to keep check on Timothy. Timothy was a pastor that spent much time under the Apostle Paul and yet Timothy was accountable to others who heard what Timothy heard. This shows how the pastor is to humbly work with the elders and leaders of the church.

• Taught Many

Paul the Apostle didn't keep all his eggs in one basket. He was wise enough to know that he needed to teach many. Timothy was not the only one listening and being trained.

Behind these statements seem to be a powerful theme.

"Our success is only as great as we faithfully pass on God's truths to those around us."


Perhaps we can pause here and search our hearts. Do we pride ourselves in being free thinkers? Do we like to think more about our thoughts or God's thoughts? Are we secretly or openly ambitious to be known as 'cool' or 'with it?'

Paul is calling us to join the army of Christian soldiers where we all have to go through the same boot camp. We all need to train ourselves to regularly feed from the Word of God. We all need to thoroughly know God's Word.

We also can ask, "Are you discipling anyone?' Is your life summarized by a passion to invest what God has taught you into the lives of others? You might object that you are not like Paul the apostle, but let's look at this passage a bit clearer. Timothy wasn't born a pastor. He was brought up with a heathen father. Paul spent time with Timothy and his life was changed.

Paul wasn't just teaching Timothy. We think if we have a good pastor, all will be well. No. Paul taught others along with Timothy. He wasn't just training a pastor. He was training the flock of God. Everyone needs to know God's Word. Everyone needs to pass on God's truths to others.

We need to be faithful to those in our charge around us. Paul said that his reward depended on how well he built up the people of God.

For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy. (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20)

I will agree that Paul, as an apostle, had a special responsibility to build up those under his charge. He was responsible. His success depended upon the faithfulness of those under his charge. A parent, however, is responsible for their children. A husband for his wife. An elder for the flock. A cell leader for the members. Our crown and joy is the faithfulness of those under our charge. Do you sense we need to pray more for God's grace rather than treat our charge lightly?

Let's now look at the process of discipleship.

#3 Teachability of our Hearts (2:2)

"These entrust to faithful men"

'These' refers to 'the things' referred to in point one, the truth of God. Our success in life has to do ultimately with how well we can pass on God's truth to others. Satan tries to hinder us from understanding the importance of these truths. We need to remove a few road barriers before we go on and explain this verse further.


Women might draw the conclusion that they don't have a responsibility of discipling. This is not what Paul meant. Timothy was in fact ministering to men. The pattern goes like this: men-men; women-women. This does not mean that women were not to train. Titus 2 clearly speaks about how older women are to train younger women.


We sometimes wonder why we are not to disciple everyone. Some are even offended. Paul tells Timothy to guard the truth by finding the teachable ones and entrusting them with the Gospel. Faithful individuals are characterized by the way they live out their faith. We need to prioritize our training with the faithful, those that actually respond to what we are teaching.

"I am not a pastor."

Others will excuse themselves from the responsibility to make disciples because they are not a pastor. God knows you are not a pastor. Here, Timothy is a pastor and is being charged with doing this. This was his particular role. But this responsibility was not exclusively given to a pastor.

Ephesians 4 says that a pastor/teacher's special function is to equip God's people to do the ministry. In other words, they are to give the regular Christian what they need so that they can disciple others. This is further clarified in the Great Commission. God's church is to be mobilized into a great disciple-making army. "Go and make disciples!"

With these things out of the way, let us positively look at what Paul is instructing Timothy. Timothy was simply to take what Paul had taught him and entrust it to others. The word 'entrust' simply means to 'set before.' This word is used in several different verses in the scriptures. (Luke 9:16; 10:8; Acts 17:3; 20:32; 1 Co 10:27; 1 Ti 1:18; 2 Ti 2:2; 1 Pe 4:19)

"And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the multitude" (Luke 9:16).

It simply means 'to set before another to use.' Depending on different settings, the word could be translated into different English words. It simply means to pass to another in such a way that when received, it is considered valuable. 1 Peter 4:19 says, "Entrust your souls to God." We bring our troubled states before God in such a manner that we know He is safely holding and caring for us.


Earlier on, we spoke about receiving God's Word. For many of you, this is a very special opportunity to base your life on God's Word before entering the work force. But we also need to think about passing this baton on to others. It is imperative that we are caught up in this task of making disciples.

Are you discipling someone else? Are you taking the truths that God has given to you and passing them on to someone else that really wants to hear them? You might ask, "I don't know how to do this." Let's discuss this in reference to two kinds of people: those who have never been discipled and those who have been discipled

1) Never been discipled.

Surprise: You would be surprised to find how many people have never been discipled. Because of this, they have no understanding of what it means. They are afraid of talking about it.

Simple: First, don't be afraid. Discipling is a simple process of taking the truths of God that you have grown by and purposely sharing them with others usually one on one. If you have been growing as a Christian, you have something to share with another newer or younger Christian.

Simulate: I would also recommend that you find a Christian that you respect and ask him or her to disciple you. This will not only help you understand the love of Christ and the truths that are to be passed on but on how you can share them with others. In addition, you could get a few discipleship books and read through the lessons and see what is being taught.

Be careful though. Many discipleship books tend to be individualistic and self-centered. They focus on an individual's own Christian life rather than how they are to function in the body of Christ.

2) Been discipled.

If you have been discipled, then many of your excuses for not discipling others are stripped away. I think Paul clearly saw into the problem. Many times, we waste our labor by only training someone to do something. We are not training others to train others. For example, do you train a person on how to love God or on how they can teach others to love God? Unfortunately, the latter is not often done. Paul thought of it though, and it is today's last point.

#4 Reproduction of Disciples (2:2)

"Who will be able to teach others also."

• Reproduction is good!

Any system of training that does not reproduce is set to die. We need to build reproduction into the system. God did this in His creation. Did you notice all the seeds in one nice juicy tomato? God also has deliberately built this into the Gospel.

• Copy of the Original!

Paul was clear that he wanted to start with a good image of the original - from Christ to Paul to Timothy onto others. This standard of reproduction would be good because it started with Christ. Timothy was to find and train faithful men. They might be faithful in a very few small things like coming on time, but they are faithful.

• Train to Reproduce!

Timothy would instill in those he shared the Gospel a need to teach others. When we make disciples, we need to do it in such a way that we will train them to train others.

Think about this in a local church context. The pastor needs to find those that are promising teachers or trainers. He has to reproduce his ability to make disciples. Behind this process is the great and Almighty power of God who converts, saves and sanctifies.

Let His truth go forth, and it brings marvelous changes to the most unlikely candidates. Don't take a person on further than where he is. Keep with him on the most basic truths until they begin to sparkle. A dud is a dud no matter how many times you light it. But if it starts to sparkle, then they are alive. Follow on with them.

• Multiplication!

The key is, as Paul has already pointed out, they are faithful. Jesus referred to them in the Parable of the Sower. They receive the Word of God and reproduce some 30, 60 and 100 fold.

And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. (Matthew 13:23)

Can you sense the excitement of multiplication? They take what is given to them and have it change their lives. These disciples, and I hope you are one of them, take and cherish God's truth. Can you not see that our success is dependent on how well we pass these truths on to others?

• A Plan for Discipling 100 Christians!

Let's see how this practically works out. It seems impossible but frankly, it is much easier than we think. The main problem is the stubbornness of our hearts and our unwillingness to obey with a singleness of mind Christ's command to make disciples. We all can be part of God's training program. We all need to be. Some discipling will be more formal than others, but good discipleship always takes a conscious effort. For example, we will need to constantly pray for those we are training.

Most Christians could handle discipling two people at a time. Say we needed to disciple a group of 100 people. Let's start real slowly. Only one person has the vision. One person starts by training two people. At the end of two months (8 sessions), we will have three trainees. Each of these trainees will train two. The trainers will multiply by 3 times with each two-month session. In only ten months (5 sessions), we have 243 trainers under ideal circumstances. {1>3>9>27>81>243 or [3N-1] }

Discipleship Plan of Multiplication

The success of such a process is dependent upon the purity of what is being passed on. It will depend upon how well the importance of training others becomes. We understand that this idealistic set up doesn't work in the real world. The point is, however, that much can be done in a short time if God's people are dedicated to a task and understand the importance of multiplication.

In fact, I myself do not like this simplistic one-phase discipleship. If Christians are to grow, they need to grow deeper in Christ. There are different levels of discipleship. At this point, we are only talking about initiating people into the system with basic discipleship. But we could alter it a little and come to a much more practical system.

We could still limit each person to two appointments a week. One could be used for learning and the other for training. The trainer then, could be training two people or training one and being trained. This model can get very complicated, but it does work. We are just putting more effort to go deeper as Paul did with Timothy and others.

Let's just take a quick peek at what this might look like. If we have five levels of discipleship training, we can both learn and train others at the same time. Within twelve session periods, a person (the circle) can go from not knowing the Lord to having been trained at all levels.

Five Levels of Discipleship Plan of multiplication

The trainee needs the overseer to train him and to accompany him the first time he trains someone at a certain level. As a bonus, he has trained 17 others at various levels (5 + 14-2). Those who are teachable can go far under the right circumstances. This was Jesus' heart. Jesus did it and wants to reproduce it in our lives.


Let's return to our problem raised in the beginning. Why do churches and Christian families die out? It is because they neglect to disciple. They do not carefully set before the next generation the truths of God. Let me give you an example.

Let's talk about a family. The father is an expert plumber. He can fix anything and he does. His family does well in having their pipes flowing, washers replaced and having the right fixtures all properly working. This is G1 (generation #1).

plumberG2, of course, will not have any real plumbing problems either. Their Dad comes over and helps out. They have learned a few things from Dad but Dad comes over and works out most of the plumbing problems.

G3 starts facing more problems. G2 had lots of opportunities to see G1 at work. All the tools were there. He even accompanied his Dad, G1, on some jobs to eagerly watch their dads work as most sons like to do. G3, however, never saw the tools G2 had seen. G1 is getting old. He doesn't work much more. He can't. Anyway, G3 has a bit more money from the faithfulness of G1. G3 just hires a plumber. He gets the same work done as far as he is concerned.

In this analogy, note how the 'knowledge or skill' of plumbing was not deliberately passed on. The skill was phased out.

In another example, though, the plumber was deliberate on training his two sons. He used to say, that though you might not be a full time plumber, I want you to be able to do every plumbing job you would need.

He took them job by job so that they were working along his side. They did not only watch but did. But he did one additional thing. He said,

"There is one thing that I would like you to do as my sons. I want you to take this training and teach it to every son you have. There are two ways to teach. You can show him or you can show him until he can do it and then let him do it. I want the latter. Will you agree to do this? I want our family to have the best equipped houses in plumbing that ever existed. Would you join me in this vision?"Leaky faucet

It is silly to talk about the vision of having well-cared for pipes, but it is not silly at all to pass on a vision of discipling to those that you disciple. Jesus did it. The Apostle Paul did it. We need to do it. This is the difference between being a success and a failure.

The problem with decaying churches and families is that they do not disciple. Cell groups, sermons and Sunday School classes often do not have the essential elements basic to discipleship. Discipleship is more focused - perhaps like a seminar. Discipleship is more intimate, ideally one to one.

Discipleship, by definition, is practical. Discipleship shares the passion and drive along with the necessary knowledge. It teaches not only what happens but why.

The meaning of disciple is learner. Discipleship is a meeting where another learns something. He applies it. He is changed. He is more like his trainer. He wants others to have such benefits. He trains others. The apostle said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ."

Summary of 2 Timothy 2:2

Four points from 2 Timothy 2:2: Content, Training, Teachability and Reproduction

"And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also."

The success of our next generation, whether it be the church, our family or our nation, depends on how faithful we obey our God by training others with the glorious gospel truths of Christ in such a way that they eagerly, excitedly teach others in the Holy Spirit.

  • Jesus commanded us to make disciples.

  • Dare we ignore His last command?

  • When we obey Christ, the nations will be won to Him.

  • Is it not time for Christ’s command to compel us to be those 'faithful men'?

Click to continue to the next article on 2 Timothy

Back to the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Check out other quality BFF materials related to the above topics.

Three Stages of Discipleship
The Heart of True Discipleship (Isaiah 50:4-7)
The Plan of Discipleship (2 Timothy 2:2)
Seven Principles to Spirit Dependent Teaching
Combating Spiritual Decline
Understanding the Cycle of Decline and Revival (Judges 2)
Determining your place in the cycle of growth
Discipling your sons: The why and way (8)
Reviving your Personal Devotions (15)
Spiritual Warfare: General Principles
The whole process by which disciples grow as a church or individually.

This article is one of many waiting for you to read from the BFF New Testament Library - see below.

BFF New Testament Digital LibraryCheck out the BFF Biblical Training Library has an incredible amount of training materials in pdf and powerpoint format ready to print out and use. We even have mp3 and teaching videos! We allow you to copy, modify and distribute material for teaching or personal edification. You don't need to ask!

Or see BFF's Resource Center for purchasing this low cost Library along with BFF's quality training material.